Your guide to the grocery store in 5 short rounds
It’s that time again. The pantry is looking lean, and the refrigerator has a cold, lonely echo inside when you open the door. Time to go get groceries. You could think of a thousand different things you’d rather do, not the least of which is watching playoff football. It doesn’t have to be a miserable task. Understanding how those wretched stores are laid out can really maximize your time, money, and the nutritional value of your grocery bill. Here’s a little Grocery Store 101 to get you motivated.
Round 1 – Shop with Strategy
Start with a list for the week. Taking a few minutes to do this will prevent having to run back later for items you forgot. It’s actually a good idea to just keep a running list on the fridge all week. Find a good pad with a magnet and just put it on the fridge door
Round 2 – Eat, then Shop
Do not shop hungry. This is a simple but very significant way to save some money. Have a snack before you go, and stay away from the end caps near the register.
Round 3 – Shop Alone
Try to shop when it’s not peak hours at the grocery store. Choose a time during the middle of the day, or the middle of the week. Busiest times tend to be right after work and on the weekends. If you shop when it’s really late at night, you will have the luxury of being practically by yourself, but you will probably be stepping around inventory, as this is when they tend to restock.
Round 4 – Shelf Strategy
The front of the grocery store is where the bakery items are (so keep walking!), and the middle of the store is where you will find canned and non-refrigerated items. These will be more expensive, plus be more processed. When you venture to the middle, stay focused and get only what you need. Shopping from the top or the bottom areas of the shelves can save you some money. The tops of the shelves are generally occupied by smaller brands and specialty items. Store managers will also place local or regional items here. The middle area of the grocery shelves is where the best sellers and more popular brands are placed. Prime shelf space is expensive, so the mark up will be much higher on items that are here. The bottoms are where the store brands and private labels are put. You will also find the bulk sizes here, which can be a little cheaper.
Round 5 – Shop the Perimeter
The perimeter, or outer edge, of the store is where you will find fresh produce, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and other fresh foods. Shop the perimeter first, then move to the middle of the store to get the pantry items you need, and then get out!
You might also check out this iPhone app for grocery shopping. It helps you pick foods, plus nutritionally maps the grocery store.